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Tuesday
Jul112017

iOS 11 Public Beta: Good enough for Everyday Use

I’ve been in the Apple Developer Program for almost 10 years. I’ve done some contract development work for a couple of companies, but for the most part, I just like access to Apple’s new stuff before everyone else. That meant a lot more before Apple’s Public Beta program began a few years ago. Still, a hundred bucks per year is a small fee for total access to all the goodies Apple puts on their developer site. I’ve always kept older model iPhones and iPads around to use as “Guinee pigs” for trying out Apple’s newest and shiniest software releases. One thing I’ve learned through the years: once an OS release gets to the “public beta” phase, the chances of bricking or otherwise FUBARing a device with it is almost nil. (DISCLAIMER: I said almost!) iOS betas usually go public at the beta 2 or beta 3 release. By that time, Apple has found and corrected most all of the severe errors that could cause OS crashes. So it is with iOS 11.

I’ve moved past the “Guinee pig” stage and installed the iOS 11 beta on my every-day iPhone and iPad. There have been a couple of apps that have given me trouble, but for the most part, iOS 11 runs well, doesn’t eat battery and my iOS devices don’t crash or suddenly reboot for no apparent reason. The only consistent problem I’ve discovered is with the new Airplay 2 feature. Audio apps like Spotify, Pandora, YouTube and Audible either 1) aren’t yet coded to work with the new Airplay standard or 2) Apple left something out of Airplay 2 that would make it backwards compatible. Anyone who reads MacTexan will know what a fan of Airplay I am and how I’ve set up my “whole home” audio system around it. Tapping the Airplay icon in any of the above-mentioned apps does nothing. Well, almost nothing. Usually, the Airplay icon simply disappears and the audio continues to play wherever it was last instructed to via the Music app. That’s the workaround. If you want to stream your Pandora station to one or more Airplay devices, you must first open the Music app, tap the Airplay icon and set you iOS device's audio output to your liking. Then switch back to Pandora, hit “Play” and Pandora will stream to the current Airplay settings.  Apple’s Music app is certainly coded to use Airplay 2, but so far it’s the only app I’ve found that will control Airplay correctly.

Aside from that, iOS 11 works very well. It is a little slower on older hardware like my iPhone 6 Plus, but you have to expect that. My iPad Air, on the other hand, sings with the new OS and I have to admit most of the benefits of iOS 11 are realized on the iPad. Most notable is the new keyboard. Not having to constantly shift between the alpha and number keyboards makes typing on the iPad much faster. I also love the new iPad dock. This feature is a long time coming, but it's here now and takes the iPad one step closer to a laptop replacement. The new one-handed keyboard on my iPhone 6 Plus makes it possible to use my big phone with one hand. Before iOS 11 I found that to be impossible. My thumb just isn’t long enough to navigate the standard keyboard on the 6 Plus.

By far, my favorite iOS 11 feature is the new Control Center. It looks better, can be accessed within other apps and is much more customizable than in previous releases. I especially like the ability to add quick access to the AppleTV Remote and Notes apps. I use the apps a lot and the handy link in Control Center lets me take them off my home screen, allowing room for other things. As iOS 11 matures, I expect even more app shortcuts to be added to the Control Center customization menu.

So, if you want to try Apple’s latest (and greatest) iPhone and iPad operating systems, I feel confident recommending the public beta. C’mon, don’t be skeered!

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